By Jessica Leigh Johnson
As the mother of three boys with X-linked agammaglobulinemia, I certainly do my fair share of worrying. And as hard as I try to keep a positive outlook on the future, I have learned the hard way that things don’t always work out the way we plan. Losing my 9-month-old son, Ethan, to a common cold virus taught me that lesson; and for some reason, I just can’t undo the damage that was done to my already less-than-optimistic approach to life.
So now I tackle the job of parenting primary immune deficient children as a control-freak. I figure it’s my job as their mother to keep them healthy. I stick to my boys like a mosquito to a streetlamp, following their every move, making sure they wash their hands after using the restroom, before they eat and anytime they touch … well, anything.
But what will I do when they’re older? Things certainly can’t remain the way they are now. I won’t always be around … or at least, I shouldn’t always be around. One day, I may actually have to learn to let go and let my boys grow up, take care of themselves - and that scares the living daylights out of me.
What if I send my oldest son, Andrew, goes off to college and doesn’t remember to take his antibiotics every night? What if he doesn’t feel the need to do his compression vest therapy twice a day? What if Mathew or Gavin don’t do their subcutaneous infusions once a week? Should I drive to their dorm room every Friday night and make sure they are keeping up with their strict healthcare regimen? Would it be overbearing to call them every day just to check up on them?
Maybe my best option would be to change my personality completely and just sit back, take a deep breath and tackle the future when it comes, one day at a time. After all, Gavin is only 3 years old. College is still a long way off. Besides, I have bigger things to worry about for the time being: Mathew is 5 years old and still can’t ride a two-wheeler without training wheels. Before I get too worried about what the boys will do when they’re in college, I should just focus on getting them through kindergarten, first.
Perhaps the lesson here is that parenting is always a day-by-day journey, whether your children live with chronic illness or not. Spending too much time worrying about the future can rob you of precious moments in the here and now. How have you learned to leave worry for another day?